SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Usually, somewhere in my columns, you’ll find a point. Maybe something general, like “Stupid people make life interesting”. Maybe something specific, like “If politicians get what they deserve, tar and feather stockpiles will become critically short”.
The only point I can come up with this time is “Fleas are bad”.
That’s pretty general, but unlike some of my columns I’m fairly confident I won’t get a lot of arguments.
Last August my home was invaded by a horde of vicious, blood sucking fiends; more invisible than lawyers, more real than vampires, more irritating than bass boosted rap music from an open window. I never knew where they came from, since the only pets we had were two hamsters that never went outside (that they mentioned). All I know is, I pumped more poison into my own home than both sides used in World War I, and eventually they went away.
Or so I thought.
This year our dry spell led to a wet spell, which led to a blizzard of mosquitoes right out of a cheap horror movie. Surely the few little bites that suddenly appeared on our ankles were just more of the same, right?
But one bite led to ten, each screaming for attention like a second string Presidential candidate, and we all know how crazy that can make a person. The conclusion was inescapable: Fleas.
Each kind of insect brings different emotions in me. I love butterflies, for instance, because seeing them means it’s not winter. I hate mosquitoes; I fear spiders; I despise fleas.
At different stages, individual fleas can live a year or more. They could have come in on a mouse. They could have hopped on me when I mowed the lawn, or walked around outside pretending to consider other yard work. But it was just as likely that a larvae or two survived the first attack, an entire year ago, and waited through repeated failures to clean house, for their opportunity to strike again.
It turns out cleaning in the corners is a good idea.
Not that any of that mattered. All that mattered was how I would handle this new crisis. I searched the internet and made phone calls, determined to end this cycle once and for all. But, after running up the phone bill, being laughed out of various stores, and visits from agents of three different federal agencies, I had to face the sad truth: A civilian just can’t get his hands on a flamethrower these days.
What’s the world coming to, when you can’t defend your home?
Plan B involved poison. Lots and lots of poison. Spray poison, powder poison, gas poison. I chased everyone out of the house, people and pets alike, and ordered them not to return for four days or until the Haz Mat team was able to remove my body. All that was left was me and a tank of fish, who would act as a control: if the fish went belly up, it would be time to consider beating a hasty retreat. Who says fish can’t be useful pets?
Besides, I couldn’t get the tank out of the house.
I sealed up the house as best I could. Not only were the windows closed, but I stuffed rags into every nook and cranny, closed vents, and considered encasing the entire home in a plastic bag, until I got the estimates. It was me or fleas; only one would emerge alive. I was hoping that would be one me, not one flea.
Soon a delivery truck arrived, and half an hour later we had all the supplies unloaded in the front yard. The two deliverymen, encased in Level A Haz Mat suits, backed up slowly and sped away, while police cordoned off the area and began evacuating the neighbors. Possibly they thought I was overdoing it.
The opening gambit involved aerosol cans, which spray pesticides out in a toxic mushroom cloud. It advertised that it worked for days, and got into hard to reach places. Since I was having trouble reaching all the places that needed itching at that point, it seemed rather karmic. One can could fill a certain area with gas, and some quick math told me five cans would cover the entire house and the garage, where spiders the size of Bill Clinton’s little black book were watching with amusement, occasionally stopping to scratch their own bites. I’d show them, the little furry so-and-so’s.
I set up two cans in each rooms, and three in the garage, where the spiders were starting to look worried. Including the two separate areas of the basement, that made 23 cans. Take that, “reasonable estimate”. That left enough cans for two more doses, because you don’t kill fleas off the first time. Ever.
It was shock and awe time.
By now it was time for me to leave for work, so I methodically set off each can, then made a run for the door. Ducking under the toxic cloud rolling out the front door, I made it with seconds to spare, confident that --
Oh, crap. I forgot to turn off the pilot lights on the stove and water heater.
I hesitated for a long moment at the front door, which was starting to bow outward from the pressure of all that ozone layer killing aerosol. Those bug bombs deliver into an atmosphere exactly what’s needed for a nice, big explosion: flammable gas and tiny, explosive particles. All that’s needed is a spark. There have been cases of homes being lifted off their foundations by bug bomb explosions.
However, an explosion also needs oxygen, and the number of cans I’d opened had to mean all the oxygen was being forced out of the house, right? Right? Oh, and I did turn off the air pump to the fish tank, didn’t I?
Sigh. No, I didn’t.
Taking a deep breath, I crawled back into the house and reflected on the irony that I was doing a search and rescue operation on fish. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments.
Next Week: more moments Mark isn’t proud of.